Starring Andrew Garfield, Robin de Jesús, Alexandra Shipp, Joshua Henry
Directed by Lin Manuel Miranda
Rating: *** ½
If you are into Vir Das, then you would probably enjoy the sassy stand-up acts of this film telescoping years of turmoil in the early 1990s when young aspirations were repeatedly nipped in the bud by AIDS.
How much more reassuring that era of viral setbacks and random mortality seems as compared to the one that grips civilization now. Then at least we fooled ourselves into believing that one got sick only if one did ‘it’ with another man.
Tick Tick…Boom captures the innocence of the AIDS era beautifully. Its hero is the real-life standup comic Jonathan Larson whom I knew nothing about until I saw this film. By getting ‘Spiderman’ Andrew Garfield to play the arresting Larson,the film does disservice as well as a favour to the iconic stage performer.
Favour, because audiences immediately warm up to Garfield as Larson , since Garfield is a personable easily identifiable actor. It also does disservice to the real-life character for the same reason. I spent two hours watching Garfield bringing his own impish charm to the character.
If we are to believe Garfield then Larson was boyish charming and selfcentred to the point of not noticing his girlfriend and bestfriend’s deep sense of isolation and unhappiness from Larson as he ploughs along relentlessly towards the goal of achieving his dreams. The ensuing loss of personal relationships is conveyed in the deeply tragic performances of Alexandra Shipp and Robin de Jesus as Girlfriend and Bestfriend,respectively, Jesus,specially, is splendidly tragic when the bestfriend contracts AIDS.
Through all these personal losses, Garfield’s Larson remains stoically unmoved. I get the whole thing about an artiste’s selfcentredness. But there is more here at play. Garfield is just not able to express the self-disappointments of an artiste so caught up with his dreams that he can’t bring himself to care for those who love him.
I think this is an actor’s failure that needed to be mended in this charming but damaged drama of annulled dreams. Nonetheless the film has a lot going for itself. It is a musical, and the songs are thoughtful and easy on the ears, specially, ‘Louder Than Words’ and ‘Come To Your Senses.’
Larson’s short but brilliant lifescape is edited to convey both immediacy and nostalgia, sometimes simultaneously.We see Garfield’s Larson on stage talking about his life even as ‘life’ does its own dance elsewhere.
Tick Tick…Boom is a sunny sparkling musical. But it rise-to-fame tropes are all too familiar. From the initial frustrations, to the failed auditions, to the sudden recognition, we know how all of this will finally play itself out even if we have to pretend to ourselves that this is no ordinary rags-to-riches biopic. Which in many ways,it is not.